By Josh Lashley
The 2015 campaign and all that was accomplished during it for the Mendham High School boys soccer program will not be forgotten anytime soon by all involved from the student-athletes, to the coaches to the fans of Minutemen-and for all of the right reasons.
Mendham captured the very elusive NJSIAA State Group 3 championship with a convincing 4-0 victory over Toms River South in final round on Nov. 22 in Union.
The Minutemen defeated Old Tappan by a score of 2-1 in the State Group 3 semifinal round. They won the North 2 Group 3 Sectional crown with a 2-1 triumph over Hopewell Valley in the championship round.
Mendham finished last fall with an overall record of 18-5-1 and now it’s time to focus upon what awaits them this fall. Russ Raffay, the veteran head coach for the Minutemen, with nearly 20 years of experience at the helm knows that there will be many challenges this year and that opponents will be heavily focused on defeating the defending State champs.
While it’s true that a whole host of talented players graduated, at least five of which moved on to compete on the pitch at the collegiate level, veterans who know what it takes to succeed against the best opponents in New Jersey return for the Minutemen.
Those returning to the varsity roster for the Minutemen this year include Jared Beneducci, senior, midfield; Jack Chernow, senior, back; Dan DeGraff, senior, goal keeper; Danny Post, senior, forward; and Stephen Ryan, junior, midfield.
Key players hoping to also have a positive impact on varsity this season include Zu Al-Bahrani, senior, midfield; Alex Charney, senior, defender; Ryan Stolz, senior, midfield; Ryan Barcelona, junior, midfield; Ryan Vispoli, junior, midfield; Johnny Wang, junior, defense; Hans Gallagher, sophomore, forward; and Matt Sullivan, sophomore, defense.
The Minutemen play in the North Jersey Athletic Conference United Division, along with Chatham, Delbarton, Montville and Morristown.
“We once again look to compete in NJ’s toughest conference,’’ Raffay said. “With only five teams, we produced two of the six state champions last year.’’
Mendham was scheduled to begin the regular season with three consecutive home games versus Montville, Sept. 9; Mt. Olive, Sept. 12; and Chatham, Sept. 16.
The Minutemen face Delbarton for the first time this year on the road on Sept. 22. They travel to play Ridge on Sept. 24.